BlueGreen Alliance

Good Jobs, Clean Environment, Green Economy

Nov 20 12

A Race We Can All Take Part In

The following post is from Charlotte Brody, Associate Director, Health Initiatives 

The statistics get repeated again and again: 

One in eight women in the United States will get breast cancer in their lifetime.  

In the U.S., Canada and other industrial countries, women have more breast cancer than any other metastatic disease. 

Between 1973 and the present, the incidence of breast cancer in the United States increased by 40 percent. 

Today there is something new and important to add to those statements:

Young women working in the automotive, plastics, and food packing industries are five times more likely to have breast cancer. 

This is the finding of a powerful new study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health. This six-year Canadian study involved more than 1,000 women with breast cancer, age-matched with a control group from the same communities in southern Ontario. 

Researchers found that women who worked for 10 years in the automotive, agricultural, plastics, canning, and the casino, bar and racetrack sectors had elevated breast cancer risk. The highest risk factors — five times higher than in the control — were for pre-menopausal women working in the automotive, plastics and food-canning sectors — two industries with likely exposures to chemicals that act like estrogens and other hormones, including bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates. 

Let’s say that again: these two industries have more likely exposure to chemicals that act like estrogens and other hormones. And pre-menopausal women who work in these industries, according to this study, are five times more likely to have breast cancer. 

This study refutes the claims from industry organizations like the American Chemistry Council, which said, “The well-established risk factors for breast cancer are not chemical exposures, but rather a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors.” If breast cancer was the result of lifestyle and genetic factors the control group in this study would have the same rates of breast cancer as the women workers. They don’t; they have as much as five times more. 

Five times higher is too high to ignore. And there is no need to ignore the problem when we have new alternative assessment tools that can help us identify chemicals or processes of concern and to implement safer, healthier ways to make products. The path to safer materials isn’t always easy, but this study is an obligation to start down that path. 

Investments in fuel efficient and clean energy technologies have already shown the positive effects that research and development can have for jobs and local economies. Now we need to add investments in safer materials. By 2025, we can have vehicle fleets that not only average 54.5-miles per gallon, but are also made without any cancer-causing materials. 

That’s a breast cancer race we can all take part in.